As part of their recovery program as clients at Rushford’s Stonehaven program, Steven Sokolowski and William Pugh were recently asked to share their stories of addiction and despair with a group of adolescent clients at Rushford’s Stonegate campus in Durham.
Looking out on the teenage faces in the audience, Pugh said he was immediately struck by one thing.
“I looked at those faces, and I felt like they were all me, a younger version of me,” said Pugh, who is in recovery for addiction to crack cocaine and other substances. The father of a 24-year-old son, Pugh said he grew up in New Haven where he fell in with gangs and sold drugs, going to prison and getting shot several times in drug feuds. He said he decided to pursue treatment for his addiction so that he could finally earn the respect of his son, and present him with a better model as a father.
Sokolowski, who is recovering after more than 17 years of heroin addiction, said he too wants a chance at a better life. Both he and Pugh said the opportunity to share their stories with adolescent clients at Stonegate only strengthens their resolve to continue with their recovery.
Greg Hogan, the director at Stonehaven, said the effort to have Stonehaven clients share their stories with Stonegate clients benefits both programs.
“Because of their backgrounds, these clients are able to connect with the adolescents in uniquely powerful and intimate way,” he said.
After they finished talking with the group, Sokolowski and Pugh were each approached by many of the adolescents individually.
“They wanted to know how I did it, how I was able to change my life,” said Sokolowski, who now aspires to be a writer. He shared one of his poems, called “You’re Not Alone,” with the adolescents during his presentation.
“I hope the poem helped show them that there are other people going through the same thing they are,” he said.
Pugh said he was approached by one young man who was eager to hear more about his story. The young man had dreams of being a rap music star, and Pugh told him that staying in school would be the best way to chase that dream.
“He asked me if I would ever come back, and I promised him I would,” said Pugh, who is now taking courses at Middlesex Community College with the goal of one day becoming an addiction counselor.
Both Pugh and Sokolowski arrived at Stonehaven seeking treatment about the same time last year, and they have learned to rely on each other to support their recovery as well as their commitment to the 12-Step recovery program.
The ability to share their message with young people at Stonegate further reinforces the track they are on, they said.
“I wish I had something like this when I was that age,” said Pugh.